Friday, October 22, 2010

Oh, Those Cowboy Hats!

In 1865, with $100 John B. Stetson rented a small room, purchased a few tools and ten dollars worth of fur –and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born.  One year later the “boss of the plains” or hat of the west was born. 

Back in Mr. Stetson’s day, most everyone knew and practiced better manners than what we do today. But since hats fell out of fashion many years back, entire generations have come of age with no clue whatsoever as to the proper “hat protocol.” 

In Wild Texas Wind, my June 2010 historical release from The Wild Rose Press, my hero, Raz Colt seldom removes or tips his hat.  This is deliberate; he makes it clear from page one he’s no ordinary gentleman—in fact, he’s no gentleman at all.  So he doesn’t bother with the usual formalities.  Much to the irritation of heroine Arden O’Hara.   

But as I work on the sequel to that story, inspired by the character of Confidence Man and gambler—and Raz’s side kick in Wild Texas Wind—Kip Cooper, I find myself paying closer attention to a gentleman’s manners—specifically those “hat manners” mentioned above.  Kip is a man who likes to charm, likes to blend in and doesn’t shun societal customs.  (In other words, he’s the complete opposite of Raz!) But since there are few things as romantic –or flirtatious!—as a gentleman sweeping his hat from his head in the presence of a lady, I wanted to know more.

According to the John B. Stetson Hat Company there are very specific rules to dictate when a gentleman should tip his hat, and when he should remove it. 

Tip your hat:
If a woman thanks you
After receiving directions from a stranger
If you excuse yourself to a woman
When walking with a companion and he greets a woman not of your acquaintance

Remove your hat:
During the playing on the National anthem
Upon entering a building
During an introduction
When attention a funeral
When initiating a conversation

An excerpt from Wild Texas Wind is below. 

All Raz Colt wants is land, a quiet peaceable existence and to put his life as a hired gun in the past. When the chance to earn a sizable fortune by rescuing a kidnapped heiress comes his way, he seizes the opportunity. Trouble is, the heiress doesn’t want to be rescued. Offsetting Arden O’Hara’s beauty is a rattlesnake personality and shrewish temper. Despite her claim that she faked the kidnapping so her fiancé would ride to her rescue, Raz knows someone is out to kill her. And if anyone gets the pleasure of wringing her lovely neck, it’s going to be him.

Arden O’Hara is desperate to go home. Her fiancé was supposed to ride to her rescue, proving it’s her–and not her father’s money– he loves. Instead an arrogant stranger, with weapons strapped gun-fighter low and a decided lack of sympathy for her situation, shows up spouting a ridiculous tale about someone trying to kill her. It’s infuriating when Raz Colt’s claims prove true after not one but several attempts are made on her life. She has no idea who this fast gun with the deadly aim is, or why he makes her feel as wild and untamed as the Texas wind. But like it or not, if anyone is capable of getting her home alive, it’s Raz Colt.

Arden couldn’t be certain the exact moment she realized the approaching rider was watching her. But the chill crawling up her spine was the doing of the man lying unconscious beneath her. He’d deliberately tried to frighten her.
And for the moment, she was stuck. Her chin hovered mere inches from his chest. No matter how she struggled she couldn’t free her hair from beneath his dead weight.
“Wake up.” She tried to squirm free, to kick him—anything. She reached awkwardly around to slap at his cheek, but to no avail. He didn’t stir. Only the steady rise and fall of his chest assured her she hadn’t killed him.
The rider moved closer, slowing his pace to take in the scene before him. It was too late to play dead. She had a funny feeling it wouldn’t have done much good anyway.
The metal of the .44 grew warm against her palm, but her hand, pinned awkwardly between her body and the man she lie upon, was numb and tingly from lack of circulation. The rider stopped a few feet away and dismounted. He walked closer, then stopped, studying her with a smug expression. When the corners of his mouth turned up, she had the oddest feeling he considered himself the cat to her mouse. Every instinct screamed the truth. This was the killer.
In one grand attempt to remain alive, she rolled to one side, ignoring the sting of her scalp, and freed her arm. Cocking the hammer with her thumb, she trained the gun on him. “Don’t come any cl—”
A hand on the back of her neck slammed her face down on the ground. Her finger was squeezed tight against the trigger as he—the arrogant ass she’d been unable to rouse a moment ago—closed his hand over hers. Three shots rang out almost simultaneously, the kick from the gun lurching her arm as it fired. Something warm buzzed past her ear, like the hum of a bumble bee but much too fast and much too hot. She opened her mouth to scream but inhaled a mouthful of dust and dirt instead.
Silence reigned for only a second before he rolled off her, one hand pressed to his head where she’d struck him. “Son of a bitch.”
Sputtering, Arden sat up and wiped an arm across her mouth. The rider lay slumped at an odd angle in the dirt. She turned to the suddenly-conscious stranger “You killed him.”
He stood, hand still on his head. “You’re welcome.” With a motion of his finger, he wordlessly told her to stay put. Gun in hand, he approached the dead man, then nudged him with the toe of his boot. He bent to press two fingers to the side of the man’s neck. “He’s dead.”
“So I gathered.” She noted the precision of the two holes, one square in the chest, the other right between the eyes. Either would have been a lethal shot. Another chill slithered down her spine despite the sun’s merciless heat. Who was this man with such deadly aim?
“Do you know him?”
The sight of the corpse, already taking on a chalky hue, began to sour her empty stomach. She drew her knees up to her chin, shaking her head in answer to his question. “Do you?”
He glanced down at the man’s face, cocked his head as if considering. “By reputation only. At least I think it’s him.” He rose, reloaded, and holstered the .44. with a smooth motion that told her he did it often and without thought.
“Why did you kill him?”
“Why didn’t you just shoot him in the hand or the leg or something?”
“Are you out of your goddamned mind?”
“Anyone who can shoot as accurately as you could have disarmed him without killing him.”
“Hell, yeah. I could have invited him to tea, too.” He stepped a few feet away to retrieve the other man’s revolver from where it had landed. “But I have a bad habit, sweetheart. It’s called breathing. And I’m kinda partial to doing it.”
As he approached her, she reached for the extra gun he carried. “I’ll take that.”
“The hell you will.”
“I feel the need to protect myself.”
“And you’re doing a half-assed job of it, from the looks of things.” He knelt down in front of her. “Are you all right?”
She had to admit, his concern was somewhat touching. The memory of him throwing himself over her, shielding her with his body, caused a warm flush of gratitude. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Good. I got ten grand riding on your well being.” He glanced back at the other man. “Who wants you dead, Miss O’Hara?”
“No one.”
Raz shifted his gaze back toward her. Something in her voice wasn’t quite right. “You sure about that?”
“Who would want to kill me?”
“Anyone who has known you more than five minutes.”
Hurt flashed in those big green eyes before she pushed to her feet. “I’m leaving.”
“That’s a good idea,” he agreed. “Whoever wants to kill you will try again when he doesn’t come back.”
“I assure you, no one wants me dead.”
“That remains to be seen.” He left her to rummage through the dead man’s pockets, looking for anything that might identify him. But he didn’t need a name to know what Arden O’Hara would have suffered before he killed her. Finding nothing of use, he hoisted the body over his shoulder and draped it across the back of the extra horse.
“We’d better head to the nearest town and find the sheriff.” He didn’t bother to add there would probably be a reward.
“Yes, we.” he repeated. “Don’t you want to know the identity of the one person in the whole world who wanted to kill you?”
She stared at the corpse as if it would bite her. “I told you, I don’t know him.”
“Whoever hired him knows you.”
She briskly rubbed her arms as though to ward off a chill. “Look, Mister—”
“Colt. Raz Colt.”
“Fine. Colt,” she repeated. “I think a terrible mistake has been made here. I’m quite certain this man never meant to harm me. I think he was probably trying to scare me.”
“Men like this don’t play games, darlin’. They kill.”
“You speak as though you have personal experience.”
He shrugged. “I don’t make apologies for what I am.”
“What are you?”
“A law-abiding citizen.”
She raised a brow in his direction before dropping her gaze pointedly to his guns. He wasn’t about to explain his lifestyle to her. He was a hired gun; it wasn’t something he was proud of but it was what he knew, what he was good at. And he liked to think he provided a service to the local law enforcement. Any low-life he took off the streets was one less gun the sheriff would have to face down.
Still, her decided lack of fear in all of this nagged at him. Sure she was a little green around the gills from staring at the dead guy, but not once had she come close to panicking; not before he’d entered the little shack, not when he approached her and not now, when she’d damn near met her maker.
He removed tobacco and paper from his shirt pocket and calmly rolled a cigarillo. “Mind telling me why you’re ‘quite certain’ this man wouldn’t harm you?”
She sighed dramatically. “It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time before he starts to rot.”
“I’m sorry you were dragged into this, but I was not kidnapped, at least not really.” She began to pace, moving away from him.
The cigarillo complete, he scraped a match on the heel of his boot. “I’m listening.”
She walked toward a nearby rock and took a seat, resting her elbows on her knees, chin in her palms. Another sigh. “I wanted Geoffrey to rescue me.”
He inhaled, held the smoke in his lungs, and willed himself to stay calm. A million different responses came to mind, most of them more colorful than what she’d spouted earlier. At last he allowed a stream of smoke to slowly leave his nostrils. “Why?”
She sprang to her feet and resumed pacing. “I needed to know if he cared about me or if it was the money. I didn’t want Daddy involved, I knew he’d worry.”
“That doesn’t explain our friend over there attracting flies.”
“The men I hired would never have sent a man like that, not even to scare me.”
“The men you hired?”
“Yes. I think we need to assume this man was after you rather than me. A man like you most certainly has enemies.”
“Not alive.” He threw the cigarillo aside and stalked toward her, thoughts of killing her himself running wild. “Are you saying I damn near took a bullet for someone who staged her own kidnapping?”
She shrugged, almost childlike. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?”
“Yes. I’m sure Daddy will still pay—”
You’re sorry?”
“Mister Colt, you’re doing that repeating thing again.”
For the second time that morning, Raz hoisted her over his shoulder, this time taking care to remove his guns. He pressed one against her ribs, partly for effect, partly from anger. “Not half as sorry as you’re gonna be.”


  1. Thanks, Paty! I just love those hats---sigh.

  2. Hey, Nicole--this brought back nostalgic memories of my daddy. He wore cowboy boots and a Stetson almost his entire life, the older version of the Stetson, not the more modern Western kind in the photo. They were light-colored and had satin linings. I'm using plural, because he had maybe four. With his bright blue eyes and curly hair, he was a looker--I loved him so much.

    Your excerpt kept me glued! I'm sure the novel has been a success. Thanks for sharing it with us--Celia

  3. Thanks Celia. I love the older Stetson's myself but couldn't find a decent photo of one to share today. Maybe next time. *G*

    Thanks for the kind words on the excerpt! I had a lot of fun writing that story!

  4. Manners were so different back then! But even as late as the 1950's, people wore hats when going out of doors. I even remember my grandfather always wearing a hat when going out and that was in the sixties. I heard President Kennedy was the one who stopped hat wearing for men. For women, I think it must have been the women's movement in the sixties.

    But I have had men in reenactor garb tip their hats to me at Civil War reenactments. And I had to learn how a Victorian lady responds to such curtesy by inclining her head in acknowledgment. My first impulse was to grin like an idiot. LOL. A huge learning curve for a woman of my hatless generation.

  5. LOL Susan. I'd do the same thing if a man tipped his hat to me!


  6. I do love those cowboy hats, too. Cowboys are so sexy with the cocky walk and the tip of the hat. :)

  7. Oooh you've got it, Paisley, that's exactly what it is!!

  8. Nicole,

    Loved your post! Living here in Oklahoma, it's not uncommon to see men wearing cowboy hats as an everyday occurrence. One of my favorite jobs I ever had was when I worked at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum--we got to wear hats! And one time a guy from Germany came in and offered my boss $50 for his hat! My boss told him, "You can go buy a new one down the street--I'll draw you a map." The guy kept saying, "NO! I want a REAL COWBOY'S HAT!" LOL

    Loved the excerpt from your book, too. The dialogue is really realistic--loved it. It's going on my list!


  9. LOL I can't blame him Cheryl, I'd want a real cowboy's hat, too!

    Aww, thanks. You know how with some characters the dialogue just comes out of nowhere and you're sort of just the stenographer taking it all down? LOL. That's how it was with those two , I could barely keep up with them! ;o)

  10. Love the "Hat" rules, Nicole. Enjoyed your excerpt!

  11. Nicole, I'm so happy to learn that you're working on Kip Cooper's book. I can hardly wait to read it. I love WILD TEXAS WIND.

  12. you are invited to follow my blog

  13. Thanks Caroline! Kip's definitely a fun hero to write about. *G* So glad you liked WTW!

    Steve, thanks for stopping by.

  14. Hi Nicole, I loved the history lesson about Stetsons and the tipping and removing rules. If only modern men would remove their ball caps in restaurants... I live in Chicago, and we don't see too many Stetsons here, more's the pity. I wrote a contemp that started with a Chicago woman seeing a man on the street in boots and a Stetson and immediately fell in lust. Oh, he had clothes on also. :-) I'd probably fall in lust at the sight too. Thanks for the info.



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